• Ben Erickson

The Miracle Season

Review for The Miracle Season originally published in the June 2018 issue of Film Score Monthly:

Based on true events, The Miracle Season follows the Iowa City West Side High School Volleyball team as they compete for the state championships. The film begins by recounting a vehicular accident in which team captain Caroline Found loses her life, leaving behind a devastated community and a shaken team that must overcome loss and hardship by winning consecutive games to reach the championship. The Miracle Season is directed by Sean McNamara and scored by Roque Baños. Well established in Spanish film, Baños broke out into the American scene and gained international recognition for his work on the 2013 Evil Dead reboot. The composer has since gone on to score In the Heart of the Sea and most recently The Commuter, steadily making his mark in Hollywood. For The Miracle Season, Baños uses a traditional orchestra augmented by a marching band. An interesting choice given volleyball is not as commonly associated with the latter as are certain other college sports. But Baños handles this kind of material incredibly well. After all, the composer was once a Spanish officer, where he would write concert band and marching band music on the regular, and so he is only playing to his strengths here. The Miracle Season score is astoundingly beautiful, offering numerous instrumental solos and Americana flavorings, and as upbeat and inspirational as a sport film score ought to be. Not only is there an uncommonly satisfying level of drama, but the music engenders the spirit of camaraderie and passion that fuels the team and their progress. More incredible still was Baños’ decision to seek out Caroline’s real-life father, himself a French horn player, to share and discuss the score. This consultation of sorts brought a great deal of personal significance to the music, ensuring that the French horn would be well featured, and that the score would hold a special place for Baños and Caroline’s father. The first three cues introduce just about all of the thematic material, with the main theme shining through in “The Best Friends”, characterized by rhythmic displacement at the onset of the melody and moving in to a broader B section before returning on piano. The team theme, heard less frequently in the film, is disclosed in “Found Family”, with a more forlorn melody remembering Caroline in “The Terrible News”. With this material, Baños reaches levels of sentimentality unheard since the work of James Horner, particularly in the stillness and quiet reflection of it all—like a single string sustained over a delicate piano. Though I do not like drawing comparisons between film composers, Baños’ approach here has a true kinship with Horner’s work. (Please note that I am not accusing Baños of plagiarism. Too often film composers are called out for musical theft or temp track copying when in reality the music of any composer from any school is often times a pastiche of influences from their experiences.)

“Coach Goal” invites a taste of cool jazz with upright bass and a rhythm section as a more commonplace style among urban settings, while “Home Coming Game” is the first cue where we hear the battery percussion. Moving forward through the score, the latter becomes a routine component, using orchestra shots, rolling snare drums and rimshots, quivering strings, and a horn theme to put an intense and properly motivating pressure on the team. “Final Game Starts” gives the music some fat, jazzy brass and flagrant trumpets before moving into the big hoorah of the score, “The Victory.” Flashy drumming and swelling brass rouse the mentality surrounding the championship game, a final remark wherein Caroline’s theme plays in counterpoint to the main theme on trumpet. The main melody is then taken up on cello, before repeated statements of the tune with changing instrumentation close the cue. If you do not want to listen to a marching band, then I would suggest staying away from the second half of this album. Regardless, this score is a bit of hidden gem. I do not know what the demand is for volleyball films, but Baños’ music gives a good display of triumph over adversity, and never forgets the emotional heart of the team’s journey and what they have been playing for.